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97 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Voice of Experience
After many years as project manager in product development, I embarked on two software development projects, a new area for me, and found that some of my management skills were not relevant. After the first project stumbled, I purchased several software project management books and, after working through them in a disciplined way (taking notes on salient points and...
Published on July 23, 2005 by Benjamin Rossen

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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Needles in the Haystack?
The subject of my review pretty much sums up how I feel about this book. After the first 100 pages, I thought to myself "I've gotten a handful of gems and a few good visuals, but did I need 100 pages to accomplish that?"

Seriously, that sums up my impression of the entire book. There is a LOT to be desired in terms of organization and it really feels like...
Published on December 29, 2007 by Wanderer


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97 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Voice of Experience, July 23, 2005
This review is from: The Art of Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) (Paperback)
After many years as project manager in product development, I embarked on two software development projects, a new area for me, and found that some of my management skills were not relevant. After the first project stumbled, I purchased several software project management books and, after working through them in a disciplined way (taking notes on salient points and scaling them on their helpfulness for my work) found this to be the best. It is comprehensive - perhaps a little too wordy at times - and packed with practical advice. The lists of questions which come up regularly in this book can be turned into management check lists. Scott Berkun's points anticipated many of the problems I have since encountered; I am now reading this book for the second time and noticing things that were missed on the first read. As my experience has grown, I have come to recognize the voice of greater experience speaking through this book. Recommended for novices and experienced software project managers.
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical, useful advice on how to realistically run a project, July 21, 2005
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This review is from: The Art of Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) (Paperback)
Scott does a great job in this book of providing well-organized, practically useful guidance on how to work on and run a project. Even if you're not actually in charge of a project, I'd recommend this as a book to help you understand what should be getting done on it. The three biggest areas he focuses on are how to ensure a project has proper focus and clear priorities, how to run meetings and do feature-level design, and how to handle a project as it moves from start to finish.

The key to proper focus and clear priorities is the tie between the mission, goals, features, and tasks in a project. Scott provides a great framework for tying them together, ensuring they're created, and ensuring the team understands them.

The advice on running meetings and doing feature-level design is the only area that might not work as well for those outside of Microsoft. While I highly identify with it, and think that he's clearly stated the best practices for our environment, your mileage may vary.

Finally, he does a great job of talking about the difference between the start, middle, and end-game. Many people try to use a single process throughout and either overburden the start of the project or allow the end-game to spin wildly out of control. Scott's very clear about how to apply the right level of touch and raise the process bar at safe but necessary increments as a project goes on.

The only negative thing I could find in the book is that some of the proofreading on the figures wasn't up to the same quality as the text. References to figures are sometimes pointing to the wrong one, and occasionally the legends are mislabeled.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book dispenses much needed advice, February 2, 2006
This review is from: The Art of Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) (Paperback)
Perhaps one of the reasons I am still doing engineering work rather than supervising it 26 years after I received my BSEE is that I could never properly wrap myself around exactly what it takes to manage a project. I therefore approached this book with a great deal of trepidation. However, after I began reading it I became pleasantly surprised. Most project management books I've read in the past intersperse advice on project management with software engineering techniques and Tony Robbins style motivational anecdotes. This one sticks to the subject and is well organized. The book is not about any one specific project management methodology, but about fundamental aspects of all projects. The author recounts his own experiences while managing projects at Microsoft to provide insight into the less transparent aspects of project management. The book is divided into three major sections: "Plans," "Skills," and "Management." This organization provides a logical flow overall and allows topics to build on one another. In spite of this logical progression, the chapters are fit for random access, as the author himself recommends. One of my favorite chapters was "Figuring Out What To Do". Here the author outlines three basic perspectives: The business perspective, the technology perspective and the customer perspective. The author states that although the customer perspective is the most important of all three that is the most neglected and is the reason that many projects fail.
The chapter "How Not To Annoy People: Process, Email, and Meeting" was another chapter I really enjoyed. It offers down-to-earth recommendations on dealing with annoying behavior which the author lists in five categories:
When others
1. assume you're an idiot.
2. don't trust you
3. waste your time
4. manage you without respect
5. make you listen to or read stupid things
Since I've been guilty of being on the giving end as well as the receiving end of some of this behavior, this chapter helped me see some of the trouble I can cause myself as well as how I can effectively deal with it when it comes from others.
However, this book is more than just about how to deal with socially backwards misanthropes such as myself. It dedicates considerable space to creativity, dealing with ideas once you have them, making ideas actionable by using affinity diagrams to consolidate ideas, and employing iterative prototyping.
The third section of the book, which is specifically about management issues, contains chapters such as "Why Leadership Is Based On Trust". In that chapter the author points out that trust is built through commitment but lost through inconsistent behavior. Leaders must develop enough trust that people will bring issues to them during crises instead of hiding them. Trust, then, is at the core of leadership. Part of the reason that people will not trust some leaders is dealt with in the chapter "Power and Politics." Specifically, the author points out that power is misused when people work towards their own self-interest. If that person is a leader, and other people take note of this misuse, trust is lost.
In summary this book has much to say about all phases of project development as well as management. Highly recommended.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Needles in the Haystack?, December 29, 2007
By 
Wanderer (Who cares where I live?) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Art of Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) (Paperback)
The subject of my review pretty much sums up how I feel about this book. After the first 100 pages, I thought to myself "I've gotten a handful of gems and a few good visuals, but did I need 100 pages to accomplish that?"

Seriously, that sums up my impression of the entire book. There is a LOT to be desired in terms of organization and it really feels like there's a lot of good information, but so poorly organized that it's hard to connect ideas. Several times per chapter, I find myself seeing references to how something will be better dealt with in further chapters. I have to ask myself why that happens constantly, and whether or not it says something about the organization of the book.

There also seems to be a tendency to wander away from central topics into tangents or only loosely related ideas. Very rarely does the author tie his thoughts back to what each particular chapter is about, or to a central idea. I have a hard time learning from books that are written this way. I have constantly found myself reading a paragraph in this book and thinking "Okay, but what does this have to do with the aspect of project management that this chapter is supposed to be about?" I tried very hard not to fall into that trap, but it kept happening.

I am an avid reading and an academic, so I know dry reading and I'm not saying that this is dry or anything like that. Quite the opposite, it's witty and fun to read in places. The thing that gets me so much is that it's poorly organized and poorly optimized. I find the author spends way too much time trying to say things and not nearly enough time relating them back to his main ideas.

I have read the authors second book, on Myths of Innovation, and I have to say that I was disappointed by going back to his first book (this one) on project management. I think his second book is excellent and vastly improved upon. It is much shorter than this project management book and MUCH better written, largely in part because of the organization but also because of how concise it is. In retrospect, perhaps he has since improved his craft, but his first outing (this project management book) is definitely tricky.

I see all the positive comments and I believe those people are being genuine about the content of the book. On the other hand, I do believe they have neglected to mention the issues I'm pointing out here. Don't get me wrong, there is useful information here, and lots of it. I have really enjoyed the nuggets that I've found in several chapters, but I lament the page count I had to forge through to get to them.

Again, the content is good here, but the presentation leaves a LOT to be desired. If you have issues with reading books where the author wanders away from central ideas and loses himself in tangents, and where you can easily forget what you're reading about in a particular chapter, you may have difficulties here. If you're just after the book for some good ideas about project management and plan to skim it, you should be okay. Anyone planning to read this from cover to cover is in for some real disappointment.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ready reckoner for the softer side of project management, August 24, 2006
By 
This review is from: The Art of Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) (Paperback)
This book is more than 400 pages of good, practical advice for project managers. Since 'art' is always a specific solution, as opposed to the generic formula based science, the value of this book will depend on the extent of experience a person has, the kind of project she is managing (hopefully IT) & the realm of her responsibilities.

It follows a coherent sequence beginning with writing vision statements for the project to end-game strategy that talks about wrapping up the project. In between, there is an ample amount of methodology type content - like how to write good designs, how to make good estimates etc. However, all these methodologies really talk about characteristics & points-to- consider-while-you're-at-it type content. For example, while discussing estimation Berkun talks about the common estimation mistakes & the features of a good estimate but does not discuss any estimation method like PERT.

Berkun is fairly funny as well & the text is replete with example situations from his years at Microsoft. While some readers might mistake this as being exhibitionist, I think a great deal is understood by the way of examples particularly when we're dealing with topics like management & project dynamics.

I must also acknowledge that this by no means a full presentation of all aspects of project management. For example, I did not come across any reference of project audits, & though there is ample discussion on good requirements & great design, I did not notice anything on the process of arriving at a WBS given a design, budgeting & the like. That said I believe that hardly anything on Project Management can hope to be a complete reference simply because of the complexity & ramifications this role can have.

This is a good book to have on your shelf, & you can flip through any chapter depending on your current requirement.

S!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Project Management for Technical Communicators, January 4, 2006
By 
Everett T. Larsen (Rouses Point, New York) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Art of Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) (Paperback)
The Art of Project Management

Scott Berkun

O'Reilly

[...]

US$39.95 CAN$55.95

reviewed by Everett Larsen

Documentation Specialist, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Rouses Point, NY

January 2006

How is project management related to the work that technical communicators do, such as technical writing, user interface design, content management, or help authoring? After all, many technical communicators support projects that are managed by someone from another technical area in a company, perhaps a software engineer or web product manager. Freelancers and contractors, on the other hand, often may find themselves serving as jacks-of-all-trades for their own project organizing, scheduling, and delivery of information products, independent of much team involvement. In either case, a knowledge of the basics of project management can help when it comes to relating to other development team members, or just meeting a client's delivery expectations. The Art of Project Management is relevant for any technical professional who becomes involved in any aspect of projects of any size.

This recent (2005) book by Scott Berkun is one that technical communicators (or anyone else) can find useful. The term "Art" in the title indicates how the often dry topic of project management is presented. Berkun takes a big-picture view of the entire team-based, multi-disciplinary nature of project management without advocating any particular formula or engineering strategy. He uses his 10 years of experience as a program (project) manager at Microsoft as a source for many of the real-life situations used to illustrate basic concepts, but the book's value extends well beyond the realm of software engineering. Indeed, The Art of Project Management can be as readable and relevant for a mechanical or civil engineer as for a web application designer.

The book is organized into three main sections, Plans, Skills, and Management, and is preceded by a brief introduction to the history of project management and the role of project managers. Berkun's writing style is refreshingly informal, and each chapter within each section is self-contained, to allow for the reader who prefers to browse, as opposed to following a linear reading sequence. In addition, each chapter wraps up with a summary of key points for review and reflection. Jargon is almost completely absent from Berkun's discussion, and acronyms and abbreviations are minimal, so the text scans easily.

The existing body of project management knowledge carries some fairly heavy baggage in terms of critical path task analysis, schedule dependencies, Gantt and Pert charting, resource allocation, and milestone definition. Berkun's approach acknowledges these formal aspects of the project management discipline, but he also presents a corresponding spectrum of "soft skills" that project managers and project team members should use to function successfully over the course of any development project.

Much of the work in a project is related to making things happen, and making those things happen at the right times. These are key strategic considerations for project leadership. Berkun links the project manager's ability to set priorities to his/her ability to say no to priorities that are not critical to project success. He also discusses tactics for the mid-game and end-game stages of a project, and describes how to develop clear measurements that actually indicate a project's progress.

The final chapter is on politics and the effective application of political power. Politics has become a suspect term in the present day, but Berkun shows that politics is the way that groups of people collaborate to get something done. He discusses how to use political power effectively, and also how to avoid misusing it. He presents suggestions on how to influence meetings, and how to identify key political constraints to a project.

The Art of Project Management is a good reference book for anyone regularly involved in development or engineering projects, at any level. It is not a complete course for the new project manager, but it supports and supplements existing project management training with additional "soft skill" considerations that would otherwise be difficult to locate and apply in this context. The book is accessible to anyone involved in project activities, and contains no software tool references or flavor of the month management jargon that will render it dated in the immediate future.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The beginning is the most important part of the work.", November 23, 2005
This review is from: The Art of Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) (Paperback)
"The beginning is the most important part of the work." So says Plato in The Republic. So perhaps it is fitting that The Art of Project Management (Scott Berkun, O'Reilly 2005, 396 Pages, ISBN 0596007868) is written by an experienced project manager that studied not only computer science and design, but philosophy as well. Clearly and thinking man, his thoughts and experiences as a product manager at Microsoft are tied into historical perspectives of grand projects of history, and translated into an easy to read and follow format. It does not matter if you are the sole developer on a project, part of a team, or the leader of a project. This book provides valuable wisdom and insight that the success of a project is dependent on strong project management and planning from the beginning to the bitter end.

From The Pyramids To The Kitchen

Berkun is keenly aware of and believes in the notion that project management is not a new concept. At the start of the book, he takes us back to the days when the great pyramids were built and to the present with thoughts about modern-day restaurant kitchens. The latter is highly organized chaos, much like flight operations on an aircraft carrier. In the busy kitchen, everything is run so smoothly and efficiently despite constant flux in the environment. It is the history of project management and how it works outside peoples' normal thought processes that Berkun challenges the reader with from the beginning.

Learning From Failure

Berkun, who openly acknowledges the mistakes, failures, and challenges of his time at Microsoft is clear that organizations need to dissect every project after the fact so that lessons can be learned and applied. Throughout the book, he also emphasizes the importance of planning and setting realistic milestone schedules that can react easily to changes without major impact. The author then leads the reader through each step of the project life cycle, interjecting thoughtful discussion and not just rigid "book rules" and theories. He acknowledges the place of theory, especially in decision making, yet shows their limits when it comes to real life, time-constrained decision making.

For this reader, the biggest strength of the book is its continual focus on the human dynamics associated with communication, leadership, and politics surrounding. Berkun argues that unless these are mastered, any project is doomed to failure.

Who Should Read This Book?

This book should be read by any system administrator or application developer involved in any size project. It should be read by people who want to be or are program managers, It should be read by those who manage project managers. And finally, it should be read by information technology compliance and governance professionals from two perspectives. The first is two understand the dynamics of project that pose governance challenges. the other is to see how they can apply the principles to their governance implementations.

Scorecard

Eagle on an Average Par 5
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical advice, October 10, 2005
By 
C. M. Lowry (Columbia JUG, Columbia, SC USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Art of Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) (Paperback)
Written with wit and keen insight and a generous mixture of anecdotes, this book serves to bridge the gap between theoretical and practical project management. While the reader can read the chapters randomly and still find value, the linear approach may give more benefit as the succeeding chapters build on concepts previously introduced.

The author presents a refreshing way to look at project management. His perspective on the value of the vision document and the timing for creating the project schedule reveal some interesting insights. A good vision document can define the domain of a project, form the basis of the requirements, and set the success criteria. In discussing scheduling, he presents research that shows what we suspected all along, that scheduling too early is not only wildly inaccurate, but also hazardous to the success of the project. Although everyone can see that a project is trouble when the deliverables slip, throughout the book the author shares warning signs that indicate that the trouble has already started, and just as important, what can be done about it.

The author's perspective is strongly influenced by his years as a product manager for Microsoft. While your mileage may vary, the book is full of golden nuggets for all PM staff. I suppose that the art of project management is really about understanding what should happen in your project and what is happening (and about to happen), and then using your creativity to bridge the gap. I wish that I had this book to read ten years ago. I think that I could have saved myself quite a bit of agony.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to be a great project manager, June 1, 2006
By 
Jim Anderton (Portland, OR USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Art of Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) (Paperback)
Scott Berkun, the author of The Art of Project Management, was involved in project management activities at Microsoft for 10 years working on projects such as Internet Explorer, MSN, and Microsoft Windows. He speaks from experience. I'm a senior developer who sees the value in strong project management. At times, I've filled the PM role and other times I've worked on projects with dedicated PMs. I admit I don't have a passion for project management (I'm a developer at heart.) But, I LOVE working with PMs who do. Berkun is a great example of someone who is passionate about project management. And, he has a great way of sharing it in his book without using a lot of PM lingo. He presents basic project management truths in a way that I found understandable and compelling.

Berkun starts at square one: A brief history of project management and why you should care. The remainder of the book is divided into three parts: Part 1 - Plans, Part 2: Skills, and Part 3: Management. He covers everything from scheduling and writing specifications to management and communication techniques to building trust and dealing with problems and corporate politics.

The book paints a complete picture of what it takes to be a great project manager. I recommend it to anyone desiring to advance their PM skills.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complexity acknowledged, simplicity championed, September 26, 2005
This review is from: The Art of Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) (Paperback)
Finally, there is a project management book that manages to capture all the major skills and activities needed to complete successful projects, while not ignoring the real world. The reason that this book is so good is Berkun understands and articulates the real paradoxes of project management. For example, project managers are expected to tolerate abiguity but pursue perfection. We are also required to be both believers and skeptics, autocrats and delegators, leaders and managers. We must also know when to be which.

Using succinct concepts and even laughably simple diagrams, the author leads readers through three major areas: Plans, Skills and Management. There is a lot of straight talk about what things will and won't work, why project managers are so busy and how navigating politics and relationships can sometimes be the most difficult part of the job. Two sections that should be recommended reading for anyone who works with other humans (which is pretty much all of us) are: How to make good decisions and How not to annoy people.

This book is especially helpful if you work on projects with creative or technical people. Berkun gives some excellent advice for dealing with the abiguity of simultaneously designing and building innovative products.

If you need an meaningful and entertaining book about project management, this is the one. Every word is worthwhile, even the footnotes. This book deserves at least 5 stars.
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The Art of Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly))
The Art of Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) by Scott Berkun (Paperback - May 2, 2005)
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